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Community rallies behind Westside Elementary student with Cystic Fibrosis

Keaton Nelson, 9, rides down Broadway on Friday, Dec. 11, 2015, to fulfill his wish of being Santa for a day by Make-a-Wish North Dakota. Keaton, who has cystic fibrosis, delivered candy, cookies and toys from Macy's to Sanford Children's Hospital. Michael Vosburg

Keaton Nelson, a fourth-grader at Westside Elementary School in West Fargo, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when he was 3 weeks old, but he has remained positive throughout, even though the last couple of years have been tough for him and his family.

"Anyone who has met Keaton says he's an old soul," said his mother, Kristen Peterson. "He is years beyond his age in his thought process and showing concern for people emotionally. Keaton generally finds the positive in most situations. We get through the hard times together, talk about what is happening and what he should expect."

A community carnival is planned from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday, April 28, at the school, with proceeds helping pay for Keaton's medical care.

Keaton was excited when school staff informed him the carnival was going to be dedicated to him and his family.

"I feel pretty good about that because it feels like I'm really special and everybody cares about me a lot," he said.

Westside Annual Family Fun Night organizers have chosen a different student or member of the community to support each year. Keaton was an easy choice this year.

Westside Elementary Counselor Lorraine Albrecht and reading teacher Nicole Lembke say Keaton is more than deserving of the support. In December, Keaton was a recipient of a wish from the Make-a-Wish Foundation, but instead of going to Disneyland or choosing something for himself, he decided to deliver gifts to others at the Sanford Children's Hospital in Fargo.

Keaton has received support in other ways from the school.

"He's missed a lot this year, he's had quite a few hospitalizations this year at the U of M," Albrecht said.

"Westside is such a supportive, tight group of professionals who have helped us out tremendously," Kristen Peterson said. "We have been able to get a tutor in the home to assist in getting him caught up in school. They are there to understand his condition and ask what they can do to help better accommodate his needs and concerns."

Keaton Nelson celebrates his birthday at a hospital in the Twin Cities. Submitted photo

Keaton notices.

"I feel it's pretty nice, because I miss school and my friends and all of my teachers," he said.

Keaton briefly attended last year's carnival, but this year he's looking forward to spending more time at the event. What he's looking forward to the most is the dunk tank. Specifically, he wants to dunk Rocky, the janitor "and a really good friend," Keaton said.

If you go

  • When: 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday, April 28
  • Where: Westside Elementary School, 945 7th Ave. W.
  • What: Carnival games, bake sale, silent auction, prizes, literacy games, dunk tank, food and hometown heroes.
  • How to help: The proceeds of the benefit will go to support Keaton and his family. The Dakota Medical Foundation's Lend A Hand Program will also contribute up to $5,000 in matching funds.

To make an online gift, go to www.dmflendahand.org, click "Benefit Events" and give to the Lend a Hand fund benefiting Keaton Nelson. Monetary gifts, payable to the Keaton Nelson Benefit Account, can also be sent to Gate City Bank, 3100 25th St S. Fargo, ND 58103. For more information, contact Nicole Lembke at nlembke@west-fargo.k12.nd.us or (701) 356-2110.

Josh Francis

Josh is a general assignment reporter for The Forum and the sports reporter for the West Fargo Pioneer. Josh previously interned as a reporter for the Reading Eagle in Reading, Penn. and worked as a freelance reporter for the Orange County Register in California. He welcomes story ideas via email or phone. Have a comment to share about a story? Letters to the editor should include author’s name, address and phone number. Generally, letters should be no longer than 250 words. All letters are subject to editing. Send to letters@forumcomm.com.

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